Primal Zebra Review: Most of the time, my PEZ compatriot and fashionista Ed Hood is a traditionalist when it comes to pro team kit. However, he has a soft spot for the Italian Acqua Sapone squad:
“If the team leader had been anyone other than Super Mario then ‘NO!’ But it was led by the big Tuscan, who revelled in gaudiness – Mario simply did not do ‘under stated.’ Just please don’t try and tell me that his winning on the Via Roma in 2002 in that strip wasn’t a fabulous image.”
Super Mario FTW on the Via Roma
Indeed, it’s an indelible image and IMHO the Acqua Sapone zebra kit is just classic. Fast forward to today and you too can channel your inner Cipo with Primal’s new Zebra Evo 2.0 kit (also available separately as a jersey and bib shorts — you get a price break if you buy the kit together but have to wear the same size jersey and bib shorts to be able to do that). Primal’s Evo series kit is second from the top in their range (the top being the Helix series — I previously reviewed some of their Helix kit). Nonetheless, it’s still pretty top shelf stuff.
Primal Zebra Evo 2.0 Jersey – $110
Whereas the Acqua Sapone zebra kit was predominantly white with black zebra stripes, the Primal zebra kit is the opposite: predominantly black with white stripes. But there’s no mistaking it for what it is. When I wore the kit for the first time on a group ride, one of my former teammates rolled up and said “Hey Mario!”
The Zebra Evo 2.0 jersey is very much a “race like” jersey in the fit department. It is slim fit per Primal’s fit guide, which means “designed to fit closely to the body and has a tapered cut.” I generally wear a size small in cycling jerseys, that’s what size the Primal size chart specs for my body dimensions, and a size small fit me well. But I wouldn’t call it full-on race fit. Don’t get me wrong — the jersey is suitably snug. But it’s just not quite as form fittingly tight as other race kit I have (Primal’s Helix series is elite fit and more racy with it being “designed for the most aerodynamic fit.”) So if you like comfortably tight, these may be the droids you’re looking for.
A hint that this isn’t a full-on aero race jersey is the mock collar — collar-less is de rigueur in the pro peloton these days
The jersey has six body panels plus the collar and raglan sleeves (which are two panels plus a laser cut gripper section). The body panels and sleeves are all flat stitched. But for reasons I don’t really understand, the collar is serge stitched. Nonetheless, none of the seams caused any friction against my skin.
That’s a whole lotta seams!
The jersey material is what Primal calls “Q3 Elite” which is described as a “plaited double-knit fabric with square grid texture for additional aesthetic appeal and slight weight reduction” with 4-way stretch. Plus it has SPF 35+ sun protection. It’s a “solid” fabric but held up against light, you can see that it’s relatively sheer but not see-thru.
The side panels and undersides of the sleeves are a mesh material to provide ventilation and moisture wicking.
The laser cut sleeves with a wide-ish gripper bands grip my skinny arms (but don’t squeeze ultra skin tight) with no slip
As you would expect, the Zebra Evo 2.0 jersey is a full-zip jersey. And the zipper is YKK — the gold standard of zippers. Plus a full, wrap-around silicone waist gripper to help keep the jersey in place while riding.
These days, if it’s not full-zip, it’s not a real jersey
Full Tommy Voeckler … except for the facial expression
As you would also expect, there are three rear jersey pockets, but the tops of the two outside pockets are angled down rather than straight across. Primal was one of the first companies to make the left and right pockets slanted for easier access. It’s worth noting that this means that those pockets are effectively smaller (even if ever just slightly so), which potentially means being able to carry less stuff in them. I didn’t experience any issues being able to carry the stuff I usually carry, but something to be aware of. If there’s anything “missing,” it would be a secure zipper pocket that many other jerseys now have — but that’s certainly not a dealbreaker.
Slanted rear pockets make it easier to reach in
Not a featherweight, but the Zebra Evo 2.0 jersey is reasonably light
Primal Zebra Evo 2.0 Bib Shorts – $130
You could wear the Zebra Evo 2.0 jersey with plain black bib shorts (always a safe bet per Ed Hood), but why wouldn’t you go Full Monty with the matching Zebra Evo 2.0 bib shorts?
In terms of basic design, bibs are bibs and the Zebra Evo 2.0 bib shorts are no different:
- Relatively high cut front
- Wide straps
- Wide leg gripper panels
Construction-wise, the “shorts” part of the Zebra Evo 2.0 bib shorts consists of seven main panels plus the leg gripper sections. The seams are a combination of flat and serge stitched. Primal uses what it calls Vero fabric that is “40 gauge knit and proprietary construction for super-opaque properties and excellent abrasion resistance” with “superior compression.” It also provides SPF 50 sun protection.
Wide-ish leg gripper bands with silicon dots on the inside
The leg grippers grip without sausage effect
Like the jersey, the bib shorts fit is race-like but not what I would call full-on race fit. What that means is that the compression is firm enough without feeling like it’s really squeezing you. In other words, comfortably tight.
The bib section is a stretch mesh material for ventilation and moisture wicking. The bib straps themselves are wide and comfortable. Even though they are seamed instead of laser cut, they don’t really dig into your skin.
The back of the bib section is a fairly wide panel
Wide bib straps
Of course, the litmus test for any pair of bib shorts is the chamois. Primal specs the E6 Carbon pad that is made by Italian company TMF. According to Primal, the E6 uses “Resistex anti-static carbon fabric which promotes blood flow and the reduction of lactic acid, as well as being antibacterial and antimicrobial. This 4-layer, 4-way stretch chamois also incorporates an Airmesh insert for increased shock absorption and moisture management.”
The “landscape” of the chamois is quite varied, with different densities, thicknesses, and channels
As you would expect in a top-line chamois, there is a center channel for blood flow and perineal relief. The chamois is also dimpled to help increase air flow. The chamois material itself is very smooth and soft.
Not quite golf ball dimples
Just to the touch, the chamois feels somewhat “substantial.” But there’s no “diaper effect” when wearing. In the saddle, the chamois felt firm with just enough cushion for me with my Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX saddle (chamois and saddle work together and both are personal choices so YMMV). Primal claims 6+ hours of ride time and my butt was more than comfortable for nearly that long (including re-fueling stops) on my first ride.
If you must know how much they weigh
My first ride in the Zebra Evo 2.0 kit was a 70-miler on a heat advisory day — temp in the mid-90s (F) but with the humidity the “feels like” temp was over 100F. Ordinarily, not the kind of day you’d want to wear predominantly black kit. But despite it being the dog days of summer and the Evo 2.0 kit not specifically billed as uber hot weather cycling kit, I was fine riding in it (at least fine as fine can get under those conditions). It probably wasn’t quite up to the same level of some other kit I have that’s both lighter and more ventilated, but I was more than pleasantly surprised not to roast in it.
One thing is for sure: you’ll be noticed wearing this kit without having to resort to flou or loud colors. And at least riders of a certain vintage will immediately make the Mario Cipollini connection.
Maybe we all can’t channel Super Mario’s sprint on the Via Roma in Milan-SanRemo by wearing the Primal Zebra Evo 2.0 kit (I’m a skinny, spindly guy and sprinting was never my forte … unless it’s against other skinny, spindly guys), but you can certainly emulate his sartorial splendor. And if not Cipo, the zebra isn’t a bad power animal to channel for cycling — in Native American shamanism it is a symbol of clarity without obstruction, sureness of path, and balance. We should all ride like that.
Zebra in the wild
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